It is becoming sadly common to hear of churches and church leaders falling into error. Many times, the aftermath of such things leads to the entire church ceasing to exist or a small husk being left behind like a wreckage. We need to stop the increasingly common pattern and must be on guard for the things that are likely to lead to such problems.
To that end, here are four ways you can successfully blow up your church over the long term.
Make yourself the de facto sole leader
One of the easiest ways to blow up your church is to make yourself sole, unaccountable leader. If you’re clever, you will put some elders in place – so it looks like you re sharing authority and accountability – but you will simultaneously neuter their authority by calling yourself ‘lead pastor’ or ‘senior pastor’. You will make sure that you do all the teaching and nobody can disagree with you. You will not submit your church to any external checks and balances, in the name of independency, but neither will you grant your members any voting rights or congregational authority in the name of being able to lead. You will almost certainly find decision-making efficient and you will enjoy ultimate job security as nobody will be able to fire you. But, none of us is beyond falling into sin, and as you fall so will your church.
Don’t have a meaningful membership
If your membership doesn’t actually mean anything in practice, and folks can be involved in every aspect of church life without joining, you can’t be that surprised when they see no reason to join. If you can enjoy all the benefits of membership without actually joining in membership it does beg the question why anybody should join in membership. The problem is that this allows people to influence and feel at home in the church whilst not submitting to any sort of authority or taking upon themselves the responsibilities of church life. They will be able to float out just as quickly as they float in. You simply can’t build a stable church on these terms.
Don’t practice church discipline
If you have a relatively easy ‘front door’ to membership but you have no process for removing people from membership, you will soon find people joining who have all sorts of ulterior motives for their involvement. You may find all manner of sinful lifestyles that you can do nothing about or you may find people continually undermining the authority of the church leadership in less than helpful ways with no recourse available to you. The Bible warns about gossip and dissent in the church for a reason – such things tear churches apart. But if you have no mechanism for church discipline, you are essentially setting your church up to fall apart when such people rear their head.
Don’t guard the teaching
If we are not careful about who we let into our pulpit, or teach in our home groups, we may find our churches replete with false teaching that will drag our people away from the faith. It is no good having a charitable assumption about those who would teach. We have to carefully guard what is taught in our churches to make sure that error is not peddled. Allowing those who would push heretical views and serious errors back into the pulpit, time and again, will inevitably lead to those who want sound teaching to leave and those who know no better to be led astray. You may find yourself with no believers left if you aren’t careful to guard the teaching of your church.